Thursday, June 20, 2013

BANANA RAISIN OAT BREAD

This banana raisin oat bread tastes really good, but is it a cake or is it bread?  It tastes more like cake, but it's called bread. What's the deal here?  Well, actually, it's a quick bread.  It is so named because it doesn't use yeast as a leavening agent.  Yeast requires hours and optimal temperatures to cause breads to rise.  Baking powder, which contains baking soda (base pH) and cream of tartar (acid pH), acts quickly. The acid-base combination reacts when introduced to liquid, causing carbon dioxide to be formed. Consequently, the batter expands and increases in volume. When baked goods rise quickly, they are called quick breads. Cakes and muffins and scones are types of quick bread. Banana bread is a cake, and officially a quick bread, but it's referred to as banana bread because... I suppose it's faster to say banana bread than banana quick bread.  Fine.  That solves the mystery for me. I thought I would share the information with you.  I am not a know it all, I just found all this out. And I feel so much smarter now. And so should you.  I just hope I can remember all this a year from now.  But then I will always have this post to remind me. One thing I won't forget is how delicious this cake (quick bread) is.  I've already had requests for the recipe.  Here we go ladies, my post is finally ready.
What can you do with ripe bananas?  Some options: 1.  try to eat them as is.  2.  Throw them out because they cannot be eaten as is.  3.  Mix them in oatmeal.  4.  Take them back to the store and ask for a refund.  5.  Mail them to your former employer.  6.  Mash them up and make banana bread with them.  Numbers 3 and 6 are best (possibly 5 as well).
This recipe is based on one from Nigella Lawson. I made some changes:  I used a bunt pan rather than a loaf pan, i decorated the top of the cake, I added cinnamon, and I added some oats.  The oats give the cake a nice, somewhat crunchy texture.  Plus they are good for you.  Nigella calls for butter (melted) in the recipe, I guess that's why the cake is so luscious.  I wonder what it would taste like if made with vegetable oil.  I wonder... I am a curious person.  I've messed up quite a number of recipes by letting my curiosity get away with me.  However, for the time being, I will leave this particular recipe as is.  It's too good to tamper with.
This cake has a hole in it...  best thing to do when your cake has a hole in it is to put some roses in the hole... they do it in the movies...one certain movie in particular.  One certain Greek  themed movie...  I'm talking about "My Big Fat Greek Wedding,"  but of course you knew that already. The rose in the picture below is the grandiflora "cherry parfait" ( from my garden).  A wonderful, troublefree performer!



Making Banana Raisin Oat Bread

Ingredients:
1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons all purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup of golden raisins
½ cup regular oats
½ cup unsalted butter, melted

½ cup sugar
2 large eggs
4 medium very ripe bananas, mashed

½ cup chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon cinnamon
powdered sugar and cinnamon for dusting on top

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 325ยบ F.  Grease a bunt pan and set it aside.
Into a bowl combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder cinnamon and salt.  Stir well to combine. 
In the bowl of your mixer add the sugar and melted butter.  Beat until smooth.
Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition. 
Add the bananas and vanilla extract and mix.
With a wooden spoon gently fold in the raisins, oats, and walnuts.
Add the flour mixture in three batches folding gently after each addition. 
Pour the batter into the prepared bunt pan and bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes.
When ready, a knife inserted into the center of the quick bread should come out clean.

Remove the pan from the oven and place it on a rack to cool.  After about 20 minutes invert the pan onto a plate.  The banana bread should slide on the plate. 
Let cool another half hour.  Mix some powdered sugar with a little cinnamon and sift it on top of the banana bread to decorate.  Slice and enjoy a nice treat!   

Monday, June 17, 2013

GRILLED LEMONS

I do love lemons, anything lemony wins me over.  So I'll introduce you to my new lemon obsession: grilled lemons!  As the lemons are grilled they caramelize, and that gives them an added sweetness.  Sweet and tart combined.  Irresistible flavors!  Put them on the grill, let them caramelize, and use them in salads or with grilled foods.  They are so, so, good.  Just recently I served them with grilled lamb.  

Here's how I make grilled lemons:

Ingredients: 
lemons, as many as you would like
sugar
fresh thyme leaves
salt and pepper
olive oil

Directions:

Cut the lemons in half. Slice off their pointy ends so that they can be placed on a plate and not tip over.  Gently pick off as many of the pits as you can.

Place the lemon halves in a bowl and coat them with olive oil, salt and pepper, thyme leaves and a little sugar. Give them a good stir so that they are well covered with the ingredients.

Place them on a hot grill and let them cook until they caramelize.  It's not rocket science, it's grilled lemons.  A lot easier, and you can't eat rocket science. 
Here is a serving suggestion: I served them along with grilled chicken.
If you love lemons you won't be able to resit grilled lemons!
Another serving suggestion: grilled lemons and souvlaki

Saturday, June 15, 2013

WHITE BEAN DIP WITH FETA CHEESE AND OLIVES


I can't believe how good this tastes!  
You may be wondering, "come on, what is she going to tell us? Something like... "Try this dip, it tastes bad!?  It's her blog, of course she'll tell us it's the best dip ever."  Well folks, let me just say the following, because I've wanted to for a while now:  I do develop recipes that come out tasting mediocre or less than mediocre. Yes. However, I never post those.  I only post the good stuff.  Sometimes, I will make a dish that tastes really good, take pictures of it, and the pictures will come out looking horrible. (Not that the rest of my pictures are that professional looking.  I know it, trust me. I am in desperate need of photography lessons. I've been looking into taking courses for years, but I've yet to take the plunge). If my recipe is good and the pictures are bad, that post doesn't make it on the blog either. Case in point: I make a mean lobster and spaghetti.  Took pictures of the dish on two different occasions, but both times the lobster looked as though it was going to jump out of the computer screen and attack somebody.  Never posted it.  I have plans to try photographing lobster and spaghetti again, next time I make it... which will probably be soon, because that's one of my summer recipes.  I hope this next time the lobster in my photographs will look a little more docile.  If so, there will be a lobster and spaghetti post on this blog.  What I am trying to explain here is that when I tell you something tastes great, I mean it.  I don't want to misrepresent myself when it comes to the content of this blog.  Having gotten that rant out the way, let me get back to telling you about my white bean dip.  A white bean dip made with white beans, feta, rosemary, Kalamata olives (use pitted olives- never put olive pits in the food processor).
Pulse a few beans in the food processor along with a host of flavorful Mediterranean ingredients and you get an extremely  tasty, creamy and healthy dip.  Healthy because the dip is low in fat compared to most other dips out there.  Healthy because it's high in protein, calcium and fiber.  Tasty because it contains lemon juice, feta, olive oil and rosemary.  Oh, and Kalamata olives, too! Pitted Kalamata olives.  All those wonderful flavors!  Use a grilled lemon to add an extra depth of flavor.  Spread the dip on toasted pita slices and you have an irresistible treat!  A really, really delicious and healthy treat!
This recipe is fast to make.  It took me about 20 minutes, and that included cleanup. Who doesn't love the dishwasher??? The lemon can be easily grilled on the stove top, in a cast iron grill pan.  No need to turn on the grill if you would rather not.

***Here is a tip about feta cheese and olives: as these are salty ingredients, I always desalinate them before eating.  Greeks always rinse some of the brine from feta cheese.  Just place the cheese into a bowl and pour water over it.  Change the water a few times, and if you want to remove lots of salt you can even let it sit in the water for a little while.  Drain, and keep the feta in a covered container in the refrigerator.  You will have a less salty, better tasting feta. As for the olives, they usually need a good rinsing also. Once the job is done, place them into a clean container and pour a combination of canola and olive oil over them.  (Olive oil congeals in the refrigerator, so it must be mixed with another type of oil to keep it from solidifying). The oil should come almost but not quite half way up the container. Cover, shake gently to coat all the olives, and store in the refrigerator. This can be done with just about any type of olive except the sundried variety.  Those don't get rinsed because they will absorb water and will no longer be sundried.***  



To make white bean dip with feta cheese and olives:
Ingredients:
2 (15 ounce) cans white beans such as Great Northern or white cannellini 
1 or 2 cloves of garlic, cut in pieces (fresh garlic gives off a strong taste when it sits around in a dip, so use a quantity you can be comfortable with)
1 tablespoon chopped shallot
7 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon black pepper 
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons cut up flat leaf parsley (use some of the stems, too)
3 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, save a few for garnish
the juice of one grilled lemon
1/2 cup Kalamata olives.  Pitted Kalamata olives  
8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (always buy feta in chunks and crumble it yourself)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Directions:
Drain and rinse the beans.   Place them into the food processor and squeeze the lemon juice from the grilled lemon on top of the beans.  
Add the garlic, the tablespoon of shallot, the olive oil, feta cheese, rosemary, oregano, parsley and black pepper. No need to add salt because the feta cheese and olives contain enough of it.
Blend in the food processor until all the ingredients are smooth and creamy. 
Add the walnuts and blend well.
Add the olives and pulse a few times until they're coarsely chopped.  Small pieces of olives should be visible in the dip.
Place into a bowl and refrigerate for 4 to 5 hours.  The dip will taste better if it gets a chance to rest. We are all better if we get a chance to rest, aren't we? 

Take the dip out of the refrigerator and place it into a serving bowl. It needn't look anything like the bowl in the pictures.  My mother bought that bowl in the 1980s. Actually, she bought 4 identical ones. Just 30 more years and they will be antiques! Drizzle some extra virgin olive oil on top of the dip.  Decorate with a few rosemary leaves, and serve with toasted or grilled pita slices and with your favorite crackers.  Right now, my favorite crackers happen to be the ones in the picture below: "Triscuit," of the cracked pepper and olive oil flavored variety.